Published in Nov-Dec 2022
Seventy-five years ago, the youth played a pivotal role in the creation of Pakistan with their unfaltering zeal, and today, the new generation will drive Pakistan towards becoming one of the strongest economies of the world. In the last decade, many Pakistani heroes have emerged, making their mark in entrepreneurship, technology, education, sports and freelancing. Our young people are winning in their field with their passion, hard work and resilience.
Speaking of entrepreneurs, the record investments raised in 2021 by Pakistani start-ups are a manifestation of the talent of our young innovators in attracting global eyeballs. While startups like Bazaar, Tajir and Airlift gained the international limelight for the sizeable venture capital rounds they raised, there are other start-ups that, although may not have raised large investments, have nonetheless made a significant impact.
One such start-up is PakVitae. It started with co-Founder Shayan Sohail coming up with the idea of a water filter straw that allows people to drink clean water on the go. The underlying technology filters out 99.99% of the harmful elements from any water source and has the capacity of cleaning 60 litres per hour without electricity. Through this innovation, the founders have made clean drinking water accessible to everyone at very low costs.
Another start-up bringing change to the lives of ordinary people is AYEco, Pakistan’s first electric wheelchair manufacturing company. Founded by Faaiz Arbab, it aims to help differentlyabled people in mobility. The high-tech products of the company enable the disabled to reduce their dependence on others and contribute towards the economic activity of the country on a level playing field.
Azima Dhanjee is making her mark globally with her start-up ConnectHear – a social enterprise working for sign language literacy, accessibility and hearing-impaired inclusion in Pakistan through a wide range of services, such as interpretation, sign language classes and content creation. It is her empathy towards the hearingimpaired that drives her to build a community of young, driven individuals and spread hope.
Speaking of social impact, the service done by Rizq is extraordinary. Co-founded by Huzaifa Ahmed, along with Qasim Javed and Musa Aamir (while all three were students), Rizq – a not-for-profit social enterprise, has opened up new ways for people to donate food to the underprivileged by leveraging the power of technology. With the mission to create a hunger-free Pakistan, since 2017 the start-up has provided more than nine million meals with 4,000 plus donors and 25 youth chapters nationwide.
As our entrepreneurs have been working hard to strengthen Pakistan economically and socially, in the past 10 years, freelancers are contributing immensely to the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Pakistan is a youth-intensive nation with an ever-increasing demand for employment generation. While entrepreneurs are creating jobs, freelancers are selling their skills as a service around the globe. Today, Pakistan ranks number four on the scale of the world’s largest freelance markets, with more than three million active freelancers and earnings topping $400 million in the fiscal year ending June 2022. According to a survey published in Dawn, a large number of freelancers are students under the age of 18 years.
Our students are not behind in putting Pakistan on the global radar. The most recent example is the Formula Electric Racing team from the National University of Science and Technology, which earned a technical sponsorship from the global automotive giant Tesla. As the only team from Pakistan to have been in five Formula Student competitions, this group of dynamic youngsters is the first to have earned the technical sponsorship. This is one of the many examples of our young people striving towards bringing advancement in their respective fields.
Then there is young Emma Alam who earned global recognition for Pakistan in the unconventional sport of memory championships. At the young age of 16 in 2020, she broke multiple world records by winning the 29th World Memory Championship Global Finals, beating more than 300 competitors from across the world and, recently in 2022, she set another world record by winning the 13th World Speed Reading Championship Finals, leaving behind more than 100 global participants.
Talking about youth in sports, Hania Minhas is a name that is worthy of mention. The first and youngest Pakistani woman to be ranked in the top three of Asian Tennis Sports, Minhas has been on a record-setting spree since the age of 10. She is the first female champion across the globe to win 90+ professional tennis tournament titles to her name.
Then there are the women who have broken stereotypes such as Bisma Maroof. Having started her career at the age of 15, Bisma Maroof, captain of the Pakistan Women International Cricket Team, has not only been one of the finest female cricketers the country has produced to date, but she also set new standards for Pakistani women by continuing her career post marriage and childbirth. Today, with her dedication and focus, Maroof’s career is at an all-time peak and she is ready to become the most capped female captain in the country. Then there is Ayesha Butt. Hailing from Gujranwala and with humble financial means, she joined the police force and not only became an agent of change for her family, but she also set an example of bravery by not letting social norms act as a barrier on her way to becoming a woman of influence. Despite getting married and becoming a mother, she not only continues her career but has also been promoted to the position of Superintendent of the Police Service of Pakistan.
The common denominator in all the names mentioned here (and there are many more) is their willingness to dream, dare and win. Our young people are full of talent and energy; all they need to do is channel their potential in the right direction – and the way to bridge the existing gap between them and where they are meant to be is through skill development. Creating opportunities that enable them to learn and earn is the way forward. Equipping them with emerging skills will not only empower them towards financial independence and sustainability but will also lift and boost their self-confidence.
The day Pakistan’s young people become highly esteemed is the day our nation will emerge as a force to be reckoned with.
Nabeel Qadeer (PMP, SCPC) is Executive Director, Infinite Scaleup and CEO, DirAction. firstname.lastname@example.org